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"Lack of transparency" in appointment of CBI director: Govt of India "evades" RTI plea

By Anjali Bhardwaj*
The term of the current director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will finish on January 31, 2019. The government initiated the process of selection of the next chief in December 2018, as per media reports. The selection committee for the appointment of CBI director consists of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India (or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him).
There is complete lack of transparency in the process of appointment of the CBI director. The government has not provided information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act about details of the on-going selection process.
Information was sought under the RTI Act about the meetings of the selection committee, including the date of meetings, copy of agenda of meetings, copy of minutes of meetings and details of persons who attended each meeting.
All Indian Police Service (IPS) officers of the senior-most four batches in service are needed to be considered for filling up the post of the director of the CBI. Information was sought under the RTI Act about (1) any process adopted by the government to short-list candidates for consideration by the selection committee; (2) a copy of any short-list prepared; and (3) details of any committee set up to prepare such a short-list.
The Department of Personnel & Training has responded to each of these RTI applications with the same summary response:
“It is informed that as per this Department’s Executive Order No. 230/14/99-DPSE dated 08.07.2004 issued in pursuance of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s directions dates 20.04.2004 given in CA No. 4303/2002, amongst all the IPS officers of the senior most 4 batches in service on the date of retirement of the (incumbent) Director, CBI are needed to be considered for filling up the post of new Director, CBI. The process of selection of new Director in CBI has not attained finality…”
This is clearly an attempt to obfuscate and withhold information about the appointment process. No details about the selection committee meetings or the process of short-listing candidates have been provided.
In December 2016, when the previous CBI director retired, the Government of India failed to convene a meeting of the selection committee to appoint the successor, and Rakesh Asthana was named interim director. After a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court, Alok Verma was selected and appointed as director.
In order to ensure public trust in the institution of the CBI, it is critical that appointment of the director be made in a timely manner, and there be transparency in the process of appointment, which will enable public scrutiny.
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*Co-convenor, National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) 

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